Does vinyl sound better? A guide to what you need to know

‘Does vinyl sound better?’ is a million-dollar question that regularly sparks debate in nightclubs and food clubs around the world. While streaming services continue to offer impressive high-resolution audio streaming that sounds great, the popularity of the humble vinyl records shows no signs of waning.

Top turntable manufacturers have noticed significant increases in sales over the past year, perhaps indicating how keen we are to get back to basics and cherish “the good old days”. Vinyl provides an authentic listening experience, can set the tone for a party and create a unique conversation starter, so its merits are well deserved.

But music is of course a very personal experience, so ask yourself ‘does vinyl sound better?’ is important when upgrading your home music center. While vinyl may be suitable for some, it may not be for you. It’s essential to think about the options: are you opting for a soundbar to stream digital music while improving the sound of your TV, for example? Or would a turntable with separate amp and speakers be better? Or maybe you’re one of the 13% of UK households planning a dedicated music room in the home (according to research by Notonthehighstreet.com on the latest 2022 home trends) and want to include all the options – like a CD player, record player and kit for streaming high resolution audio.

Either way, planning your sound kit around your preferences will make listening to music a little more enjoyable. Add a comfy leather chair and maybe a pair of AirPods Max headphones and “get lost in the music, caught in a trap, no turning back” and so on…

But does vinyl sound better?

Cambridge Audio

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

To discuss whether vinyl is the best choice and for the best advice on what to look for when buying records, we asked Cambridge Audio Music Engineering Project Manager Nick Brown to share his best advice with Liveetc.

1. Consider when you listen to music

Record players on a piece of furniture La Boite Concept

(Image credit: La Boite Concept)

‘Just like the music you choose to listen to, when you listen to it can be just as subjective – and sometimes it can even depend on your mood,” says Nick. “Some days I want the convenience of streaming, and others the tactile experience of holding a vinyl cover and really listening to an album from start to finish.”

2. Remember that the format you listen to can affect the sound

“Streaming can be considered ‘clean’ or ‘crisp’, where vinyl can be ‘warmer’ or have crackles,” says Nick. “Neither is necessarily better than the other, and you can see why physical media sales are on the rise even as streaming continues to dominate.

‘Compared to vinyl, CDs can give you that physical experience while delivering that ‘clear’ sound – but with less compression than standard format streaming, so you hear more detail. Also look at the quality of your CD player to make sure you’re getting the most out of your collection.

3. Know how to improve the sound quality of vinyl

La Boite Concept furniture featuring audio equipment and a record player

(Image credit: La Boite Concept)

“In terms of improving the sound quality of vinyl, prevention is better than cure and taking care of your records is the most important thing you can do to help them sound great.”

“That means stacking them vertically and keeping them out of direct sunlight to prevent them from warping. And handle them with care when using them.

For more on vinyl maintenance, read a DJ on how to use a record player and not damage vinyl.

Cambridge Audio turntable

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

4. Consider the size of your vinyl

Vinyl is available in a range of sizes from 7 to 12 inches.

The 7 inch vinyl size is used primarily for single song releases – it was designed for singles as usually a song would fit perfectly in this size and was also deemed appropriate to save space.

’12 inch is perfect for multiple songs like albums or alternate mixes.

10-inch vinyl was common in the 1950s, as 78 rpm was considered the best speed to spin a record for best performance, but the hardware needed for this increased speed was expensive and difficult to keep consistent, so these discs are rare.

“Some also say that the bigger the vinyl – where the grooves aren’t so tightly packed together – the better the sound. »

Cambridge Audio turntable

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio record player)

5. Know the (speed) limits

“The speeds are simply governed by the design of the vinyl and the speed at which the record was designed to be played,” says Nick. “It’s really about what fits.

‘Ideally higher speeds and spaced grooves give the best performance, but if the song is long, playing at a slower speed (so the needle doesn’t jump between grooves) and tighter grooves are needed to adapt the song on vinyl.’

6. Choose carefully when buying used vinyl

“Buying any used vinyl is a gamble,” says Nick. “Always check for scratches and the overall quality of the vinyl, because obviously the records that look in the best condition should be the best. It’s not always the case, but it’s the best guide.

“Some records that look great but have been overplayed may also perform poorly, due to degraded groove detail.

‘Also check the flatness, because some recordings that have not been stored correctly and are distorted will also play badly. Try not to pay too much for used drives, as more often than not you might be disappointed with playback performance, but there are gems to be found.

Victrola record player on a sideboard

(Image credit: Victrola turntable)

When is Record Store Day 2022?

Record Store Day is an annual event and this year it falls on Saturday April 23, 2022 and Black Friday in November.

2022 marks the 15th anniversary of Record Store Day which brings together independent record stores, artists and fans to “celebrate independent record store culture”.

Does vinyl sound better than Spotify?

“You can stream high quality music on Spotify. But I think listening to music on the ultimate vinyl pressing, on the ultimate player, with the ultimate shell and phono stage will sound better,” says DJ Izaak Gray.

“However, the average setup might seem worse. I think it all depends on what kit you choose to play your vinyl on as well as a number of variables in terms of the age of the vinyl and how it has been maintained. .

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